“I broke my sword in my brother’s heart, When the enemy came, I had nothing in my hands, When I was a green, shadowy tree, they invited flames,
When I burnt down to ashes, they called upon winds.” Penned by the famous Pashto poet Darvesh Durrani, these verses symbolise the mayhem that swept Swat about four decades ago. They are now part of the theme song of the upcoming Pakistani feature film Revenge of the Worthless, which is slated to release by March next year. Written, directed and produced by veteran artiste Jamal Shah, the film pays homage to the vibrant culture of Swat.
“It is of extreme relevance, keeping in mind both national and international audiences,” Shah tells The Express Tribune about the film, which is his first-ever attempt at filmmaking. “The film is about the prevailing intolerance in Pakistan and the way our cultural narrative has been brutalised and defaced. It defends our cultural narrative,” he shares. He explains that the film is loosely based on a few true events of the recent past and characters, but comprises the element of fiction.
Shot entirely on location in red epic digital format, the film centralises the areas of Swat, Malakand, Peshawar and a few places in Islamabad. Speaking about filming in tough terrains, Shah says he wanted to choose authentic locations, such as Piyochar, something he hopes will pivot international audiences’ attention towards the panoramic beauty of Pakistan. “Apart from cultural, sociological and political relevance, the film will also promote tourism in a way because it is also about the beauty of Swat and its culture, people and their struggle,” he comments.
Shah’s training in and flair for art will be evident in the way the film has been shot. “The art department [of the film] has done a great job. There is a 200-year-old mosque in Piyochar, which a brick wall was built around a few years ago,” he shares. “Our department transformed its walls using textures and colours to create the desired effect. I think that will look good on the screen.”
“I had seen Swat so many times but when I saw it this time, I really fell in love with it. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” states Shah, adding that the film also highlights the Gandhara heritage and its archaeological sites. Swat, he says, is different from the rest of the Pashtun belt, as its people are more inclined towards arts and crafts, writing and other mediums of artistic expression.
Shah shares that the film’s protagonists are unsung commoners, who have sacrificed in the name of safeguarding their homeland. “It’s about them and their struggle of safeguarding their culture and in the larger context, Pakistan,” he comments. Sharing the research that went into making the film, Shah says that because of his interest in the political economy of the area, he had been exploring various aspects of its culture. Besides that, he also made a few visits with the purpose of location scouting and interacting with locals for first-hand accounts.
“We shot the film in areas that used to be the stronghold of militants. Let’s say Piyochar was [their] den… the main headquarters. We filmed in beautiful places and recorded history,” states Shah, who along with his team shot in stupas and actual hujras. Interestingly, they have also shot scenes in the hujra of the Pashtun legend Adam Khan Durkhanai in his village, which is still intact. Currently in its post-production phase, the film’s cast includes students from Shah’s Hunerkada College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2014.